Two Houston families have filed separate lawsuits against the owners of two Houston-area McDonald's restaurants over injuries their children received in the eateries' playground, Local 2 Investigates reported Wednesday.
In both cases, the children were left bloody and crying after exposed bolts sliced into them while playing in the "PlayPlace" areas. The first lawsuit was filed in June of 2010 against the owners of the McDonald's at 430 Uvalde in east Houston.
In a separate lawsuit filed Wednesday, the owners of the McDonald's on 3706 Gulf Freeway in Dickinson are accused of negligence over the injury of 2 1/2-year-old Alexis Durant.
"My children have played there many times, and I never anticipated anything like this ever happening to either one of them," said Alexis' mother, Jessika Bush.
"It was terrifying. My heart sank," Bush said as she choked back tears. "My older daughter asked me if sissy was going to die because all she sees is blood, and it's horrible."
Her lawsuit against the Gulf Freeway McDonald's owner, D. J. Clark, Inc., said Alexis had her lower lip severely gashed while sliding down a tunnel slide and getting caught on an exposed end of a bolt.
The lawsuit said she emerged from the slide on July 24 soaked in blood and choking on her own blood.
She is set for plastic surgery on Friday, but her family's attorney, Jason Gibson, of Houston, said she and other victims have been "maimed."
She appears to have a black eye and a deep, stitched-up injury on her lower lip. She called it an "ouchee" when describing it to her mother Wednesday with a very pronounced frown.
"You have these play areas with the slides that all of our kids love to go to and play in and their parents trust that the stores are going to keep those play areas safe, and it's just not happening," said Gibson. "If you have stainless steel going up against a child's flesh, you know which one's going to win."
He is also representing the family of 6-year-old Dominic Sierra, whose head was gashed by an exposed screw on May 25, 2010, at the McDonald's on Uvalde.
His family's lawsuit accuses the owner, Janus Unlimited, Inc., of failing to inspect the playground and make sure it was safe. The suit said the youngster hit his forehead and gashed it down to the skull, leaving him stuck in the slide tunnel.
The family claims they approached the manager for help, but she refused to assist them or call 911, instead telling them to "get a lawyer."
Janus Inc's defense lawyer, David Whitehurt, had no immediate response when contacted by Local 2 Investigates on Wednesday. "Any time you have a child in a play area, the space should be absolutely safe, and there's no excuse and no defense to have an exposed bolt that's very sharp in any play area where a child's going to be," said Gibson.
McDonald's released the following statement in response to the two lawsuits.
"The safety of our youngest customers is our top priority when it comes to PlayPlaces. They have always been developed to meet or exceed industry standards, integrating safety into all the processes, procedures and equipment. Our guidelines for restaurants also outline routine maintenance inspection of the PlayPlaces. As these are pending legal matters, it would be inappropriate to discuss further details," said McDonald’s USA.
Gibson suggested that parents check any PlayPlace playground themselves before allowing their children to enter them. "The inspections are either not happening or they are happening and the stores are being told they have issues and then they're doing nothing about it," he said.
For Alexis' mother, she said, "I don't think I can ever take (my daughters) back."